Preserving Internet Integrity


In Episode 54 of the High Tech Forum podcast, Dominique Lazanski and Stacie Hoffman discuss China’s efforts change the overall design of the Internet while moving its standards oversight from IETF to to ITU. Either one of these outcomes would be horrible, and the combination would be deadly.

In essence, China wants to change the Internet from a basically anonymous, permission-less system into one in which attribution is enforced for every transaction. This would certainly be beneficial for certain kinds of transactions – banking stands out – but it’s a roadblock to innovation and information security.

This is often described as a collapsing of layer two and layer three in the architecture model, the effort to implement authorization and authentication inside the network means an incomplete implementation. It can’t really solve the problem because information security has to be done end-to-end in order to be resilient to malware.

The Paper

Stacie and Dominique work at the Oxford Information Labs in the UK; long-time listeners will remember Stacie from the podcast she did with us on DNS over HTTPS last August. Their paper – titled “Standardising the Splinternet: How China’s technical standards could fragment the Internet” – has been published in the Chatham House Cyber Journal.

The paper makes four concrete policy recommendations after describing the problem of China’s new Internet and its efforts to influence global standards development organizations:

  • Like-minded countries should create a Strategic Standards Group (SSG) for the sharing of information, discussion on approaches to global standards making, and analysis of forthcoming standards. The SSG should leverage stakeholder expertise including industry, academia and civil society to build capacity and coordination.
  • Like-minded stakeholders should work together to create and amplify a unified approach and cohesive message related to the benefits of one, free, and open Internet for users, innovators, and governments.
  • Like-minded stakeholders should work together to promote the adoption of best practices and internationally recognised Like-minded governments in particular may play a role in identifying and promoting internationally recognised standards and/or those standards which have not been formally recognised by or contain concerning content identified by allies.
  • Like-minded governments should coordinate with stakeholders including industry, academia, civil society (including human rights defenders) and other experts in strategy development and execution

The podcast uses these recommendations as  jumping off point for a discussion of what China is up to.